Wednesday, February 28, 2007

strangers with candy ...

the events of the day led me to quinlan's for a bedtime snack. just one drink in quiet anonymity to put me to sleep. i'd already gone to bed around 4 p.m. under the guise of taking a nap, and woken around 10 p.m. with the reality that what i'd actually done was more of a sleep.

i was the hiding from the kind of crabby that manifests on about day 23 of my lunar schedule. the kind of day where you shake your fist at the moon and yelp: you've made your presense known! i laughed! i cried! all within 20 seconds of each other! i have supplies in my purse! i'm ready! now. just. get. here. before i completely alienate myself from society!"

ugh. bad day.

that's when the stranger to my right announced: i'm having the best day of my life! first i got a free three-disc box set of tom waits and then i found 100 dollars on the floor of the bathroom!

i silently blamed him for hording all the good luck.

***

when i was a tot, strangers were the enemy. every single face i did not recognize was just another person who could potentially throw me into the back of his windowless white van and make for somewhere exotic. like maple grove or chaska. every playground, side road or patch of wooded area was just another way to end up on the back of a milk carton. thousands of families ignoring my freckled face and bowl cut in favor of mindlessly chewing to the nutrition facts on the side of a box of peanut butter captain crunch.

name: christa
eyes: green
hair: shoulder length, redish brown
age: 10
last seen: the jiffy mart
wearing: pin stripped jeans and a yellow polo shirt. pink comb in her back pocket.

midnight-colored 10-speed abandoned in a ditch, shoelace still attached to the pedal. my bloodied light blue members only jacket hanging from a fir. jolly rancher wrappers scattered in the wind.

***

my parents feared strangers more than i did. they were sure my brother or i would eventually get taken. that the world's pervs were in the market for skinny little, gap toothed, snot-slinging smart asses with ugly feet and unfortunate hair. the time he was kicked out of the car for yanking the stocking cap over my eyes repeatedly, forced to walk to my grandma's in the dark and arrived without incident? that story is called: the time brother almost got kidnapped. subtitle: the one time in my life i didn't get in trouble for watching "the dukes of hazard." in the confusion of all those hugs and nevermind phone calls to 911, my grandma had forgotten i wasn't allowed to watch that show.

we had a code word in our family, lest someone try to lure me with a coy: your mom asked me to pick you up from school today. she's going to be super mad if you don't come with me right now. you like michael jackson? i'm playing his tape in my white windowless van. ever been to canada? here. try a jolly rancher.

unless that man said the code word "oreo," i wasn't going anywhere.

***

in the infancy of the internet, i frequently posted my juvenile musings on music bulletin boards. most frequently, a depeche mode fan site where i went by the alias lil girl. (a true depeche mode fan will know the relevance). but i visited other sites, one for the young and the restless where i defended the character crickett's honor, and one devoted to devotees of the song "opp" by naughty by nature.

that's where i met jim from gorham, maine. a similar-aged stranger with whom i exchanged emails about how hard it was to be 14 in 1989. math class and changing bodies and all those rules ... he also liked the song "humpty dance."

we corresponded for about two years. i never told my parents about him because he was a stranger. to them, every other person with internet access was a middle-aged cheeto-eating sicko, sitting in his mother's basement with his pants around his ankles and a severed head for a coffee cup.

once jim from maine wanted us to exchange photos via mail. real mail. stamp mail. i sent him my class photo. in order to distract my parents from the fact that i'd given a stranger directions to my floor-level bedroom window, i asked him to put the name of one of my former classmate's in the return address.

he spelled my friend's last name wrong.

"who is bob calongo?" my mom asked, having intercepted the letter.
"bob bob. you know bob," i said.
"i thought his last name was [not calongo]?" she said.
"it is," i told her. "he probably did that as a joke."
"i thought he moved to chicago?" she pressed. "this is from maine."
"that bob," i said, ripped the letter from her hands and hid in the bathroom as i flipped through his pictures.

jim from maine eventually asked me if i wanted to start exchanging sexier emails. i let him go first and spent a day and a half seeped in a perminant blush. things grew awkward after that. his parents eventually cancelled their internet access, likely believing it was a fad. he sent a few notes from his best friend's computer. then my friendship with a stranger died.

***

but there were more. each school year brought a new opportunity for me to step outside my friend group for an obscure new stranger. there was luis, from mexico, who named his guitar after me; andy the trombone player, who let me cut his hair. then repeatedly drove past my house until his sophomore year of college; amanda, who was as slow of a cross country runner as me and had also cashed in her v-card the previous summer; maria, from italy, who craved mcdonalds cheeseburgers and often said: "i smell somefing ..."; actually, even bob calongo was originally a stranger. he was intoxicating to my sensory system. like he'd broken a bottle of eternity cologne in his locker.

in college there was a quirky hurdler who had never touched female flesh. we dated awhile. and there was daniel, from poetry class. i wrote a sonnet about how his gap jeans hung from his hips.

out of college there was a two-year instant message friendship with mike from the suburbs. i finally agreed to meet him at a truck stop in canon falls. he watched me eat an omelet, then it was time to leave. he gave me a hug. i backed away. walked toward my car.

"want to get in my back seat?" he asked. pointed to his hot rod.
"nah," i said.

we never chatted again.

***

i still love strangers. i welcome the chance to scooch in next to one at a bar. exchange life stories, billed as fact but doused in fiction. they don't require a back story. they can't call your bluff. on the other hand, i've told strangers things i've not told friends. you've never done something stupid in front of them, and if you do tonite ... who cares?

its a one night friend stand.

equally liberating is the fact that when they become dull, you simply walk away. become consumed by an episode of "cops" playing on the bar tv. study your finger nails and frown. or maybe you don't even say anything at all.

this is called antisocial socializing. and this is what i needed last nite.

so i drank a beer. had part of another. eavesdropped on my neighbors and occasionally contributed. mostly we all just watched "cops" on the bar tv and frowned.

at the end of the night i did a shot of sambuca. lit the liquor with a bic so the top glowed blue. i watched the flame for so long, that it eventually became necessary to transfer the contents to another glass so i didn't burn my lips.

the sambuca tasted like warm anise candy, taken from a stranger.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

old man winter (isn't done with the white stuff) ...

as a person who prides herself on never having an opinion on anything, i am going to go out on a limb and tell you about something that i very strongly support: i love snow.

it is pretty. it is interesting. it causes a bit of havoc and the right amount of havoc is crucial. i rarely feel more genuinely alive than when my blood is boiling. and believe me, my blood boiled last night as i tried and failed to coax my tiny ineffective and bald wheels up first one unplowed hill, than another unplowed hill. i eventually made my way to my destination via the canadian border at 4 miles per hour. ditched my car in the first open spot and then hiked the rest of the way.

still loving the snow, though.

last week, when i heard that a blizzard was scheduled to dump all over my town i was giddy. i loved the idea of waking to self-imposed confinement and the running sitcom of my life being viewed on a black and white television set that requires a needle-nose pliers to crank to the right channel. romances conducted in matching twin beds running parallel. our male lead in plaid flannel pajamas. a single roller pinned to my bangs. the phrase: "GOOD NIGHT!" as a vulgarity.

"i still get excited about snow days," one of my friends, approximately a mid-20s something who can in no way profit from the malls being closed and city busses halted.

"ME TOOOOOO!" i exclaimed, despite the fact that i only learn about snow days around the time of day when the roads have already been plowed and the snow-creature building, tunnel digging, angel-making, snow-eating contests, moon boot mishaps have already been had.

saturday night chuck and i walked to pizza luce for the state champs' cd release. four and a half blocks through snow, but not cold. later saturday night chuck and i walked back up hill through more snow and eyelash freezing, mucus solidifying cold. cars rolled backward down lake avenue. lanes were more of a suggestion than a rule. two blocks into the arctic hike i wanted to lay face down in the mess and drown myself. two more blocks and i felt like i was already dead. when we got to my house, his hair was white: "that's what you'll look like when you're 80," i said. "not bad." i was strangely attracted to the retired, metal detector hobbyist, version of him.

we woke to the after-effect and it was excellent. our cars were buried to the point where we had to blindly dig through mounds, searching for approximations of the right makes and models. it was like a game show.

first he dug out his car, which was in a far more dire situation. then he handed me the shovel, eked his way out of the spot and drove around town looking for a plowed place to park. i began digging out my car and a man approached and offered to help. at first i declined. then i passed him the tool when i realized that shoveling is a lot like carrying things. heavy things, with no place to put them.

"you don't have to pay me," he said.

he huffed away. chuck returned. i sent him my silent hilarity via brainwaves:

"look! i found a sucker to dig out my car for me!"

they alternated shifts and eventually the civic was free so we went to brunch and two blocks away we saw the same man pushing another car out of a snow pile and i decided he was just a really nice person.

all day long, people in snow mobile suits were walking down the middle of the road. more people than i see on the average sunny july day. maybe lured by the lawlessness of an apocolyptic level of snow and a rabid case of cabin fever.

i've not always enjoyed snow, but lately i like a lot of things i've never liked before. (last night i ate pizza that was smothered in mushrooms. granted, i dug each pesky sliver of fungitude off my slices, but ordinarily i wouldn't even be able to stomach that musty hint accented by microwave rays).

in elementary school my bus stop was eight blocks from my house. uphill both ways. sometimes i would just stand at the top of the hill and tumble my way to the corner; other times i would find a patch of ice and fling myself down the hill. i remember that it took nearly a half hour to get home one day. i was wearing cords beneath my plaid jumper. by the time i got to my garage, my bladder gave out. and while i was in about fifth grade and technically too old to wet my pants, the warmth of the accident cancelled out my shame.

in these days, there were also a few incidents involving my brother pitching me head first into a bank and rubbing my face in the snow.

before i moved to duluth, a friend said: "you realize that duluth gets more snow annually than juneau, alaska, right?"

(to the best of my knowledge, this is untrue: juneau receives 101 inches; duluth approximately 77.5 inches)

eventually i will be ready for duluth's version of summer. margaritas on the deck of the hacienda and the idea that maybe today i'll inline skate on the lakewalk, but probably not. but for now i'm stoked about winter. which is good. because i just heard on tv a sentence that would usually make me cringe: "old man winter isn't done with the white stuff."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

to do lists ...

chuck: if i could do anything in the world today, anything at all, first i'd sleep two more hours. then we would do our own thing for about an hour, but in the same room. then we'd watch factotum.

me: really? because i'd fly.

what we really did is this.




it only took about 18 minutes per vehicle.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

donna martin graduates ...

i love my cork screw. it is the most complicated simplicity that exists in my life. granted, it weighs as much of my head and looks like you should keep it on a shelf in the garage. and it has an intricate lever system that would appeal to my inner mathematician if i had an inner mathematician. instead, everytime i cleanly extract a cork, i gape at the tool with a religious reverance that briefly distracts me from my shiraz.

you absolutely cannot fuck up when using this corkscrew. remember the time i woke next to an empty bottle of wine i didn't remember drinking, a phillips screwdriver, a hacksaw, a hammer and a headache? this corkscrew promises that those days are gone.

until tonite when i, in a completely sober state, applied it upside down and accidentally pushed the cork into the wine bottle, emitting a wine geyser that soiled everything within its spurty radius. mainly my carpeting, the sleeve of my jacket and some somewhat important papers. this reminds me of when i was a senior and dated a sophomore smashing pumpkins fan who was a poet.

i can't believe this has never happened before. now it will open all the time. because once you figure out how to fuck up something unfuckupable, you do it all the time.

this also means that i either have to finish the entire bottle, purchase a wine skin or dumpster dive for an old cork.

***

this is either a testament to the profound level of my addictive personality or a tribute to bad taste: but i really like the show so noTORIous and this happened before i even hit the third episode, which is typically my good-or-not episode. i rented the first seven episodes tonight because i am christa and i can watch whatever the fuck i want.

this really makes me rethink my feelings on the donna martin-david silver relationship. i always thought he was slumming. perhaps i was wrong.

1. self-deprecation is always funny. so are donna martin virginity jokes.
2. tori spelling's cleavage is more confusing than sudoku -- albeit waaaaay more interesting -- and thus requires much consideration.
3. lines like: "can i borrow your wham! cd and some moouse?"
4. the denoument of each show results in a tori hissy fit, during which, her hair looks really cute.

sometimes i wonder if i'm secretly a gay man.

***

tori spelling is 33. i'm 31. i feel simultaneously great and shitty at the same time. my cleavage is no math problem. but, right now, in the drunken light of the tv ... it looks fantastic.

Friday, February 23, 2007

cue adrenaline rush ...

you look at me, you think i'm a hack. that i think a pool cue is just a funny prop i pretend to whip and ride when the song "save a horse, ride a cowboy" plays on the juke box. you think the last time i powdered my hands, i was a b-level gymnast with sweaty feet and a leotard weggie, sniffling, then leaving a trail of snot on a blue mat as i negotiated a back handspring. that i think it is funnier to put a circle of blue chalk on some drunk's nose -- perhaps even my own -- than on the end of my stick.

and for the most part, you are right. except the hack part. i'm no hack. i'm pretty fucking accidentally good at pool. i can bank, i can make combos, i have a firm comprehension of the rules and i don't play slop.

"i find your adherence to pool rules ironic," hank once said.

i once had my own pool cue. her name was "lady liberty" and i schooled all sorts of people with it in front gaping audiences of white trash, stunned with disbelief. the running monologue, the video playing in my head, was of myself eventually making some sort of pool tour shown on ESPN2 at 4 a.m.

but sometimes (read: last nite) i suck at pool. a ball perched seductively in front of a pocket and i duff the shot. i miscue and try to jam the stick down my throat with competitive rage.

"are you trying to trick me by looking hot and playing badly?" he asks.
(i tell you this merely for the part of the sentence where he says i look hot.)

meanwhile, chuck is jumping balls with smug satisfaction and beats me. it had been my idea to play because i needed that victorious adrenaline rush. typically i kick his keister with a sort of feigned surprise.

the only consolation is that a tap of grainbelt premium at the tower avenue tavern costs just a dollar. it is such a good sale price that even the new bartender cannot believe she is giving me 18 dollars in change.

i win the next game. finally. and we settle the tie breaker with golden tee 2007. and despite some shoddy putting, i win win win win win.

***

everytime someone walks into the tower avenue tavern, someone yells "LAST CALL!"
believe it or not, this is as funny at 10 p.m. as it is at 12:30 a.m.
i blame the dollar taps.

***

some young 20-something hot shot, probably a shortstop for some bar league softball team, is performing some sort of justin timberlakeian dance maneuvers despite the lack of a dance floor. he grips the bill of his hat and spasms. boys' dance trends are so funny. i immitate him without caring if he can see me.

***

i perform some subtle gesture of affection. maybe a tiny hug while chuck is at the juke box.
about four people yell: "get a room!"
unbelievable. they should see how we act at builders saloon on a new year's eve.

***

i suggest to chuck that we hit the hammond spur on our way back to duluth.
i think i saw tears beeding in the corner of his eyes; spittal forming at the corner of his mouth.

***

the hammond spur is one of the greatest places on earth, and is especially pleasing to the palate after paying just a dollar for a tap of grainbelt premium. from the outside, it resembles a standard spur station: gas pumps and cigarette advertisements and seedy characters scoping the parking lot for short skirts and cleavage.

inside is a bevy of fried food, glistening with oil behind a window. you could catch acne by just inhaling this shit.

this place teems with people after last call. patrons forming a line that winds back to the toilet paper aisle. this is actually fortuitious. unfortunately, most drunk people can't see past the jalapino poppers to the morning-after effects on their digestive tracts. four police cars directing traffic in the parking lot.

"i've had a LOT of great moments here," i tell chuck.

***

one night chavens and i were about mid-line when we noticed the woman in front of us had the name "sylvester" tattoeed on her wrist.

"i'm gonna ask her who sylvester is," i tell him. "i bet they aren't together any more."

he agrees. i ask.

"its my baby's daddy," she tells me. i smirk at chavens.
"you still together?" i ask her.
"no," she says.

we give each other a high-five with our eyes.

***

one time, after a very superior christmas, my landlord, hank and i were hunkered over the booth satiating our drunken needs.

a tour bus pulled up full of long hairs.

"look, its whitesnake," hank said.

it wasn't. but at the end of the night, after the rush, the gas station attendants gave us two bags filled with the leftover food. my landlord took it home and put it in his freezer and at it all the following day.

***

when fannie comes to duluth, she requires a stop at the hammond spur. i like this about her.

***

one night the woman who budged in front of me had a bottle of dr. pepper. she ordered about one clogged artery worth of deep fried mushrooms and mini tacos and cheese sticks and fried potatos.

"i only have a dollar," she told the cashier.
"okay. that's good enough," the cashier said.

***

"lets get mini tacos," chuck says.
"and tacoitos!" i say. "do you want cheese sticks?"
"duh," he says.
"and we'll take some poppers," i say.
"and jojo potatos," he requests.
when we get back to his house, i learn that they ommitted the tacitos and i'm filled with rage.
"i'm going back across the bridge," i tell chuck.
"really?" he asks.
"no," i say.

***

we settle in to watch the breakfast club, but he can't find the video tape.
instead, as we drift off to sleep, he repeats, verbatim, the first 15 minutes of the movie with unbelievable accuracy.

"now you don't need to see it, kay?" he says.

i consider his skill. i may never watch another movie.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

that difficult age ...

if: yesterday i learned that if i carry a backpack and wear a stocking cap and hoodie, i will be offered a student rate.

and: this is important to me because yesterday i realized that i am technically old enough to have a child who can legally drive a car.

then: i think this means that if i had gotten knocked up my sophomore year of high school, someone somewhere would maybe consider me a MILF.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

baby (almost) got back ...

i woke giddy and jittery. like it was the day of prom. chuck's coming back, chuck's coming back.

around friday i divided the time chuck would be gone into 12 hour, slightly more manageable increments, of which there were 13. i can only assume this is the former cross country runner in me. breaking his trip into laps. sweating, grunting, bleeding, swearing and limping my way toward a finish line. i zeroed in on sunday afternoon when he would return in fewer increments than he had been gone. when i went to bed sunday night i was able to think: when i wake tomorrow, i can think "chuck comes home tomorrow."

perhaps i'm coming off neurotic. eh. you're probably right. i'm the edgar allan poe of romance, minus all the alabaster and ravens, but including sheet rock and floor boards vibrating with my own heart beat.

i'm going to up the ante. include "needy" and "codependant" to my personality profile.

***

first: get my car washed, inside and out. my car is a graveyard for cashed packs of cigarettes, water bottles, out of season clothing. it exhausts me.

pulling into the london road car wash, i remind myself that the entire concept of paying $11.25 to have 17 teenaged boys spit shining my civic is against my religion. my mom is one of those people who gets her car washed once a week. i'm one of those people who thinks "eff that. it's just going to get dirty again." (this is also why sometimes i go three days without a shower).

my greeter masks his disdain quite well.

"you can throw away everything that isn't a book, cd, clothes, or ..." i tell him.
"i know. i do this everyday."
"kitchen appliance. ... and, um. sorry."

shiny cars file through, but no civic. more cars. still no civic. i look behind the building to see if they are just burning my car. finally the civic.

i do not tip them because i assume there is no communication between the front crew -- who bore witness to the backseat massacre -- and the front crew.

***

while chuck has been gone, my dreams had a common theme:
a complicated or broken cell phone or becoming alarmed when i realize i don't know his phone number.
chuck whisking in and out of rooms, cheerful, but with no time for chatter. on the go go go.
us searching like crazy for a place to make out and growing increasingly frustrated.

it doesn't take a dream interpretation guru, which i am, to understand any of this.

***

chuck calls with a sort of airport havoc that means adding another just-more-than-half-increment to the whole lot of increments. apparently no one told his online travel website that i'm not good with delayed gratification. i used to open my christmas presents while they were still hidden in my parents closet. it's hard to open a christmas present that is still on the west coast.

"ughhhh ..." i tell him. "by now i just want to drive out there and get you."
"if it is at all possible, that may take longer than my flight," he says.

***

mocassin's overhears me on the phone with my cousin, rearranging plans. my cousin is explaining things that involve traffic-less back roads and free parking and spare keys. i'm scribbling away. when i hang up, mocassins looks at me incredulously:

"did i just hear you making plans?" he asks.
"um, ah. bah. oh. um," i stammer. "yes?"
he nods.
"but they aren't like plan-plans," i say. "they're more like just kinda plans."
"uh-huh," he says.
"and besides. look how well i adjusted to new plans. if these had been actual plans, like plans your kind of people make, i'd have freaked out and been unable to deviate!" i stand up for myself.
"uh huh," he says.

***

whatever. i have more errands. instead of cleaning up my life over the course of chuck's trip, i've decided to revisit my old ways -- days as a slothful mess of drool then do everything at the last minute.

and i do it all reaaaaaalllllyyy slowly to fill the half-increment.

***

today is plant-watering day at jcrew's. the day i promised to go into her apartment and satiate the needy. i'd had big plans to do some serious damage in this apartment. instead i just make a number two in her bathroom, steal a handful of starbursts and a pack of gum, season four of newlyweds.

but it is the number two i'm most proud of. i even left the door open when i went.

***

now. about five more hours to go.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

aye de mi ...

my landlord has come up with a money-saving option for me: he wants me to move out of my two-bedroom luxury penthouse suite and into the downstairs, one bedroom hovel. that way he can jack the rent in apartment two, and give me a 75 dollar discount to be the first door that rapists bust through.

he is finds my rent payment plan tiresome. some people don't respect creativity. at. all.

at first i agreed. i was at about .35 and i'll agree to a lot of things with the right blood alcohol content. then the tediusness of all that carrying started to weigh on me. so then i decided i didn't want to live downstairs. now he says i don't have a choice.

sneaks and biggie, while at one time romantic enough to share a bed -- loudly and awkwardly, i should add -- are not any longer. so biggie sleeps on the couch and sneaks sleeps in a bed and sometimes other friends crash out on a feather mattress in the dining room and once i saw scrubs doing her hair in front of a mirror in the living room. all those people. one bedroom. they made a lot of really sad movies in the '80s about this sort of lifestyle.

and since they are pedestrian enough to pay their rent in full in a timely fashion, my landlord thinks they should be rewarded.

"they deserve to live upstairs," he said.

ugh.

now when he mentions it, i pull a classic manuever. rub my temples and say: "really, landlord. can we not talk about this right now? i'm crabby and i have a headache and now just isn't a good time."

and then as soon as the topic switches, i am cured and again ready to contribute.

apartment one has its advantages. and as your own personal pollyanna, these are the things i will try to focus on: it has an area that i will use as a dance floor. in my third duluth apartment i had a dance floor and i miss those intimate moments with a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, spinning and gyrating to the song "everlong." and it has a large kitchen with actual countertops and apparently this goes well with the concept that i sort of kinda want to cook a little bit. there are two entrances, so when the rapist does come aknockin', i have options for ways to elude him. it has access to the basement -- where i can rollerblade in circles while listening to lionel richie. sneaks painted it. and i will never again have to look at the wilderness scene border in my living room.

futbol lived downstairs. this can only mean that some mornings i will wake and find jcrew drunk, laying on my floor in a peach swimsuit cover up listening to james blunt. sobbing in spanish.

nothing has been firmly established. yet. but i think that with the right amount of cajoling, eye rolling, screeching and angst i may be able to convince my landlord to move all of my stuff ... like he did the time he kicked me out of my second duluth apartment.

Monday, February 19, 2007

maturation ...

twice this weekend i have done some relatively mature things involving me and the drink. it started friday with a dire need to souce myself silly in the comfort of my own buffy nest. wine flowing like ... wine. two packs of cigarettes. the ability to touch you with my song through this thing that is the internet.

i purchased a bottle of cab sav, super sized the fucker, and settled in for some sad, sad self destruction. there are a multitude of ways in which you can become neurotic and seep yourself into a semblence of an REO speedwagon video if the stars are aligned. reader, they were. so i sipped and wrote and wrote and sipped and every twinge of sad, moody, neediness was a delight to my sensory system. i thrive on the range of emotions a person can feel, especially when one is in control of them. and so when i want to get sad drink, chase my rabid mood swing to the bottom of a bottle of sweet sweet wine, i take it, embrace it and remember that there was a time when i felt absolutely nothing. your own personal prozac popper, without the prozac popping.

once an anonymous reader of my former blog commented that i'd not find happiness in a bottle of peppermint schnapps. while definitely a quoteable missive, he missed the point: sometimes this playa just likes to get sad. it isn't something you need to OD on. its just a role to play for a day. its like fucking accupuncture.

by the second glass i was feeling despondant. i misinterpreted something innocuous as down-right, soul wrenching cruelty toward me. i'd been infiltrated by evil and everything in my head was written by stephen king.

i had half a bottle of wine left.
i went to bed instead of finishing it and becoming more inclined toward psychosis.
i woke, happily, at 9:38 a.m.
am i still drunk? i wondered.
no. i'm not, i deduced.

***

saturday night i heard myself agreeing to do something with bubbles, when i really just wanted to write a profound, albeit somewhat funny, suicide note and hang myself from the rafters of my rarely mentioned garage. meanwhile, my landlord had been invited to a party that i wanted to crash so badly that it made my heart swell. a clan of like-minded folk, with a quirky penchance for abusing mabeline products, that was derailed.

but the plans with bubbles loomed.

i hate when i agree to go out before it occurs to me that i don't want to go out. typically i will have a urinary tract infection, and i will use it as a reason to beg off the soiree. as i didn't have one, i upheld my end of the bargain.

we went to quinlan's.

and here is where the world shows me it is funny. six, seven, eight months ago i'd sidled into quinlan's alone. settled in at the bar and gawked at my fellow drinkers. (i like to drink alone, quinlan's is perfect for such things). i found myself temporarily enamored with someone who was clearly a regular. i watched him wander that night, hoped to at least make eye contact. nada.

cut to last nite. he not only made eye-contact, he bought me a drink and began to give me a little chitter chatter.

for the first time in my life i got to say: "hmm. i have a boyfriend." and i meant it, owned it and was happy about it.

last night i literally introduced myself to someone as "chuck mcchukster's girlfriend."

feminism took a dive.

***

second instance of maturity: last nite. bubbles and i were drinking. my landlord invited us to an afterbar and we stalled in front of his house before he arrived. "dude," i told bubbles. "i just need to go to bed."

the idea of playing foosball and line dancing was so unappealing.

"that's totally fine," she said.

we skipped out. bolted from the crime scene. nearly had a head-on collision -- his cab and our's -- as he pulled onto his street.

i came home and went to bed. ignored the call of the leftover wine. had a great dream. woke at 9:38 a.m. for the second consecutive day.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

oye, crazy ...

when i was 22 and living in rochester, i knew a man who lost his mind over an illegible fax. i saw it happen. one minute he was relatively fine, the next minute he was throwing a tirade over smeared letters on a sheet of paper that resembled an old fashioned xerox. he had this tendency. unbalanced and toeing crazy like he was wearing a unitard and waiting for the shotgun start. a conversation would start out somewhat sane. then he would go a little bug-eyed, then cross-eyed and pretty soon it was a full-fledged rant with mad gesturing and spit bubbles. you would back away, nodding. making sure your hands were visible. the blurred fax was the final nudge.

he was escorted to a hospital, padded walls, plastic shaving kits and baby aspirin soon after.

"c'mon," hank said after the news had spread and get-well-soon cards had been signed. "who wouldn't want to spend a month on vacation in a padded room playing balloon volleyball?"

as soon as he said that, it clicked. balloon volleyball, indeed. as an athlete, i decided that if i ever had the opportunity to be clinically insane or sent away to rehab, i would embrace my fate with knee pads and a jersey.

***

there should be a law against this: your boyfriend and your best friend -- your only friend -- leaving town during an overlapping span of time. i dropped chuck off at the airport yesterday; jcrew left for the cities to travel to her exotic locale today. and here i sit.

i decided that i would use my days away from these two forces of nature as a time to collect myself. clean my apartment. nuzzle toonses. start running again. complete entire to-do lists. put myself in a self-imposed rehab. a padded room. bounce balloons against my bedroom wall. let chuck return to a better version of me and jcrew return to a more clear, focused, funnier version of me. a version that recognizes fine wines, cheeses and a good sale price on a hot shirt.

***

today i was missing chuck, which was silly. he had been gone only about 26 hours. maybe more than the 26 hours, i was thinking of the next however many hours that he will be gone. i've not yet passed the apex: the point where he will return in fewer days than he has been gone. one time we pinkie swore that we would never go three days without seeing each other. and we always did. that was before we started hanging out every single day. and for a great vacation to see friends in a fun city, catch a sunburn, take great photos and celebrate 80 degree temps -- these astricks have ammended the pinkie swear.

that said, how quickly i've become that girl.

i lived a pretty solid existance for almost 31 years before i knew chuck. and sometimes it sucked, but more often it was great and happy and unencumbered by such things as feelings and emotions and purposefully binge drinking away the minutes until he returns.

"dude," i said to my silly self. "i existed in duluth for almost six years without knowing chuck. i think i can handle a few more days."

then i'd pass a car the same color as his car, that is the color of something not found in nature. i was driving down lake avenue when i wondered: what did i do when i didn't know chuck? i will have to scour the archives of my former blog to know for sure. but i'm pretty sure bears only a passing resemblence to anything i have any desire to do now.

making it worse is that he is having actual fun. so my "i'm glad you're having fun, really i am" is tainted with jealousy. for his mexican wrestling matches, i have "today i invented my own new version of pasta." for his portraits of cityscapes i have "today i watched seven episodes of 'what about brian?' on the internet."

***

so, for all my talk of bravado. for all my plans of self-imposed-rehab and to-do lists and balloon volleyball, i have this:

1. a mad sprint to the hammond at 11:45 p.m.
2. a mid-level bottle of cab sav
3. a huge gaping wine glass
4. grey's anatomy, men in trees, ugly betty and what about brian marathons
5. a promise to myself that i wouldn't post this photo with this sentiment: (although 1, 2 and 3 seem to have gotten in the way)

i miss this face.



i used to be so tough. now i'm just going to get drunk and listen to no. 2 on the newest killer's cd on repeat. booyah.

Friday, February 16, 2007

shell shocked ...

since all of our somewhat responsible friends have left the zip code and the old ladies in her apartment building think she is satan in a short skirt, jcrew approached me reluctantly. looked like she was about to pass a kidney boulder when she asked: will you water my plants while i'm on vacation?

i don't have plants. i killed a cactus in college. i once spent a day digging out a garden and more than a hundred dollars on seeds and gardening tools. i then proceded to avoid the plot of land in my backyard for 3 months until one day, famished, i rifled through the weeds, yanked a plant out of the ground and ate something near the root. i think it was an onion. maybe it was a radish.

the only other life form i am charged with is about 14 pounds overweight, craps on the floor, drinks water out of my toilet and haunts my apartment on a third shift schedule.

today jcrew approached me and began rattling off details about this plant and that and she damn-near has names for the little buggers. ... blah blah blah, this and blah blah blah that ... and i tune out right around the time she prefaces a particular plant's hobbies, bedtime and favorite snack food and sexual proclivities when i hear her say something like "... and it is my dead grandma's plant and i've kept it alive since 1991, so if you kill it i will stab you in the eyeball" and so i briefly tune her back in.

she should probably take that plant with her on her exotic vacation.

"email me with instructions," i say, dismissing her with feigned bravado.

i consider the multitude of ways i can celebrate having access to jcrew's apartment. upping my resale value one sweater at a time. she must have a liquor cabinent, for she is a booze hound. the entire friends collection and newlyweds on dvd, a couch. drawers to open, cabinents to consider and crannies to explore. but most importantly, plants to kill.

i like the idea of her coming home to find me sitting in a circle with her neighbors, gumming cigars, playing poker and eating her food. i'm smoking a leaf from granny's plant.

as a down playment for my services, she gives me ricotta cheese and green onions. i don't know what to do with either. put them in soil and water?

soon after, i receive this:

1. don't lose the key, or i will rip your face off.

2. water plant to the left of the door. big peace plant. water until water is filling the lip of the dish. don't drown it, but use 2 cups of water. i will leave watering cup on the couch.

3. water bamboo plants. 1 on tv and one next to it. tv plant, fill up to top of container without spilling. shelf bamboo, water enough to see it rise a bit out of the rocks.

4. window plant, just use 1 quarter of the cup. [futbol] plant that alway spills over from overwatering.

i'm sure your keen investigative skills will find season 4 of newlyweds among my DVDs. treat it well. her bosom is among my most prized possessions. if you want to burn CDs, feel free. if you break my computer you owe me $2000. If you forget to shut it down after you will pay my power bill. I am anal. Now you know.


if you do all of these things well, you will be richly rewarded. [exotic locale] clothing, jewelry, liquor. if not, you get a fucking shell.


sitting here now, writing this, i know: i'm getting a shell. or rather, a fucking shell.

bon voyage, my little friend!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

liquor is quicker (couldn't be sicker) ...



i have a sudden aversion to bacardi. it makes me wretch. even typing the word bacardi makes me gag. i would rather have my belly buttom assaulted with the bacardi bottle than actually drink that shit. two drinks and i have a flaming esophogus and i'm regurgitating the mess onto the nearest surface. eroding the enamel of my teeth one convulsion at a time. effing bacardi.

jcrew favors bacardi. i can only assume this is because she is an emaciated sack of bones. the liquor detours before it hits her gut and is immediately absorbed into her bloodstream.

hilarity ensues.

last week, before i hated bacardi, chuck whipped us up a coupla batches of bacardi. i did my darndest to drink it with abandon, but found the taste to be a little sharp. it smelled like busdriver halitosis. so "abandon" turned out to be three drinks over a four-hour span. me holding my breath like an olympic swimmer as i chugged.

i woke up the next day and barfed four spurts of browned stomach lining. it looked like pot roast. i was in agony the entire day. my torso quaking like i was the central hillside's situp champion.

a few nights later we tried to finish the bottle. i had one rancid glass, and hoped that would grease the wheel and soften the jolt of a second glass. i drank half of the next round and passed the drink off to my devilishly handsome boyfriend.

while zipping my boots the next day, i sprinted to his bathroom to dryheave into his toilet. i spat the word bacardi like it was the name of my nemesis.

"maybe you can't drink clear liquors," chuck suggested. "maybe you should stick to browns."

tuesday night my cousin and i had a quick dinner at a small irish bar in downtown st. paul. he ordered a captain coke, i had a tall beer that tasted suspiciously like bowling alley.

"captain cokes are my new drink," my cousin said.

i'd not had one for a long time. i used to enjoy that myself. i took a swig -- brown liquor and all -- and winced. captain cokes are not my new drink.

driving back to duluth i considered what flavor of liquor i could embrace. last month i decided i was so over shiraz. i'd OD'd on it and probably won't drink it again until 2008 at least. near pine city i decided to become a tequila girl. instead of drinks, i would settle onto my stool with a shot of tequila, a lemon and some salt and a glass of water. i don't get tequila hangovers. sometimes it brings out some bizarre personality quirks, but a tequila buzz is a good way to spend three hours.

i decided to test this ASAP. chuck and i went to the twins bar. i ordered a shot and a tap beer. the first shot was golden and i turned to chuck and said: "wow. i'm drunk." the second bungied a bit. i hopped off my stool and sprinted to the bathroom. the tequila stayed down, but i knew that if i had one more i would be pitching up pieces of my soul. watching it circle, chunky, in the drain.

so i stuck to beer. and we went to a couples afterbar at my landlord's.


here my landlord has a souvenir from the pio, which is on its last legs.




and here chuck gets all athletic

now the diagnosis is a bit more severe:

"maybe you are done drinking," chuck said.
maybe so. maybe my new "drink" is a veronica mars marathon and chuck's imitation of a restless leg syndrome patient. or maybe i can start popping benedryl recreationally. getting hopped up on urinary tract infection pain pills. spinning in cirles and collapsing on the couch. bloodlettings, paint chips and inhaling nail polish remover.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

one pair of candy lips (and a bubble gum tongue) ...

"i'm going to do something completely out of character," i tell quackers.
"shower? comb your hair?" he suggests.
"funny," i say.
"you teed it up," he says. "i just drove it down the fairway."

***

my cousin calls me at 9 a.m. monday morning with an urgent voicemail message, then acts surprised when i don't make contact with him until 1 p.m.

"hi, i'm christa. i sleep until noon," i remind him.
"right," he says. i can almost hear him smacking his palm against his forehead. "so, do you wanna go or not?"
"yes," i say.
"because if you don't i can invite someone else ..." he says.
"no. i want to go," i say.
"really? you REALLY want to go the john mayer concert?" he says incredulously.
"uh huh," i say. "big time."
"you LIKE john mayer?" he asks.
"no," i say. "not at all."

why i want to drive 2 1/2 hours to see john mayer

disclaimer: i am way too cool to like john mayer. one pair of candy lips and a bubble gum tongue? please. it sounds like something i wrote in a pink puppy journal in 1987. he was all hair and guitar and baby fat and frankly he way too prepackaged love lyrics and microwaveable saccharine.

then he disavowed all of this to become broody pot smoker with a reputation for being a complete prick, which is a slightly more attractive set of qualities for a celebrity.

then i started reading his blog which is this fantastic, sarcastic and funny collection of bedlam. he suggests that one way for grey's anatomy to handle homophobic comments made by isaiah washington would be to have dr. burke to be rewritten as a gay character. one day he posted a warning that he was going out drinking:

Tonight I will be traveling with my damageman, Elliott M. Turnbull. A damageman, for those who don't know, is a fellow, normally of British descent, who carries wads of cash and peels off bills to pay for things I broke or soiled. It's like a PR rep except Elliott works at the source, where the bad press begins. One tuck of a Grant into the bar manager's shirt and a light slap on the cheek, and it's like the whole thing never happened. A lot.


he also posts an interview where he is asked if he ever purchased a jessica simpson cd. he avoids choking on his own fist by answering: i lisen (sic) to most new music released every week.

my only fault with this interview, i wish he'd responded: i wouldn't even limewire that shit.

1. so. not only am i too cool to like john mayer as a musician, i am also cool enough to admit that john mayer is a fantastic blogger. i envision the show from a different perspective: i am not travelling to st. paul to see john mayer, architect of the tedius room for squares in concert. i'm going to support a wicked blogger who will be strumming a guitar. hopping around on stage in an outfit that suggests it is, again, cool to be a slacker.

2. the spontaenous nature of the trip has me oogly googly with love for my cousin. had he called a month in advance, i would have come down with psychosomatic chicken pox 15 minutes before go-time. but 30 hours lead time? that makes me want to run through the halls of my high school and scream at the top of my lungs ...

as i've said before: the best way to get me to not show up to your party is to invite me in advance.

3. mat kearney is opening. he was once the backdrop music for a poignant scene on grey's anatomy. yum.

3. the idea of being in the same venue as jessica simpson -- or at least the player who gets to poke her -- has me reeling. i absolutely love jessica simpson.

what if
"what if, after tonight, i start to like john mayer?" i ask chuck tuesday morning.
"i won't judge you," he says. "just don't start listening to dave matthew's band."

drive 105 on I35


on the way to st. paul i'm enjoying two jalapino cheese burgers, cheese sticks and chicken rings and right when i think life can't possibly get any better than a white castle drive thru window in hinckley, i hear on the radio that the dj on drive 105 ran into john mayer and JESSICA SIMPSON at a minneapolis bar on monday night. jessica is now a brunette. but more importantly, the best-dressed breasts in hollywood are being exposed to the same 20 degree temps as me RIGHT NOW!

jcrew is speed dialed:

"OHMYGOD!" i squeal into her voicemail. "JESSICASIMPSONISINTOWNWITHJOHNMAYER! OHMYGODDITY GOD!"

later, she returns my call and says:

"i wonder why john mayer likes jessica simpson?"
"same reason we like jessica simpson," i say.
"i mean, she's so stupid and he seems kind of smart," she says. "why does he like her?"
"same reason we like her," i repeat.
"the fantastic rack?" jcrew suggests.
"the same reason we like her."

xcellent


my cousin apparently has freakishly long legs. we are a little late and he is click clacking down the streets of st. paul in an expensive pair of noisy shoes. i have to jog to keep up with him.

"does it make me a snob that i don't ever want to date a person who is poor?" he asks.
"nah," i say.

mat kearney is okay. his main dance move involves shuffling from center stage to a piano. i like one song by him, but the rest seems like poorly conceived cheesey white boy rap.

"did he just change the lyrics of this song to rap about minnesota?" my cousin asks.
"seems like maybe he did," i say.
"he sounds like cold play," my cousin says. pauses. "i kinda wish he'd sing some coldplay instead."

as soon as john mayer takes the stage i turn to my cousin excitedly. eyes wide. the pure exhuberance of someone who likes john mayer as more than just a blogger. i feel great shame. i get giddy when he plays songs from his first cd. songs i hate when they carom out of my radio. who am i?

complaint list
i decide that john mayer should be playing dirty bars off dirtier roads instead of large venues. large venues, i decide, should be reserved for people who use pyrotechnics and backup dancers in sequined bandeau tops and knee high boots. not guitar players shuffling around in tube socks beneath a single spotlight. booooring.

then came my worst-favorite part of an concert: the encore. this tired tradition annoys the fuckola out of me. i took a stand, refused clap and hoot and try to coax him back on the stage.

just once i want to go to a show where the singer says: eh. you guys have been mediocre at best. (throws his guitar pick at the nakedest fan) i'm done.

but then he plays it. the reason for the season. the song of all songs. first he prefaces it with a reluctant: i wrote this when i was 22.

as if he is ashamed. he should be.

then i find myself weeping through "your body is a wonderland."

stay tuned ...

i did something super out of character.

Monday, February 12, 2007

dread lobster (everything tastes better with butter) ...

of all of duluth's restaurants, i would say that red lobster is about my worst-favorite. it has that universal red lobster smell that you need hip waders to negotiate. thick and swampy. low rent canned cat food left on a radiator and veiny shrimp intestines. a nasally administered appetite suppressant before you even plop into your booth, where garlic mashed potato remains have clumped and dried like mounds of toddler snot.

what is it called when you barf before you binge?

that said, i'll eat anything i don't have to pay for. last week jcrew dangled a red lobster gift card in front of me, a birthday gift from one of her exboyfriends. seems like jcrew's exboyfriends always forget that when they part ways, they are no longer contractually bound to buy her things. yet the relationships end; parting gifts keep coming. i'm not sure how she does it. she should write a book.

and so i agree to eat with her.

i order a shrimp and crab alfredo -- little creatures that were surely trapped earlier in the day on the banks of lake superior. living next to the world's largest freshwater urinal has its priviledges; i'm going to pretend fresh seafood is one of them. jcrew orders crab legs that damn near trotted out of lester creek minutes earlier. they are so fresh, they should have their teeny little fishy mouths washed out with soup, the little bastards.

two bites later i'm not hating my meal as much as the look of disdain upon my face would suggest. it is, dare i say, edible. by the next bite i've gone nancy drew all over mr. red lobster's family crest and recipe archives. i'm not eating crustacians and noodles. these are just whimsical ingredients to mask the truth: i'm eating butter and garlic and garlic and butter are pretty effing good when you mix them with anything.

meanwhile, jcrew is ripping into her personal plate of sea creature and dipping the crab quadriceps and hamstrings into butter. these little tubes of meat are merely vessels, from which to suckle butter like a calf at a teat.

my favorite meal from my worst-favorite restaurant is definitely the shrimp scampi. i now realize this is just butter soup with decorative C-shaped meat.

in the end i eat half of my meal and half of her's and later butter erupts from my pores, each a self-contained volcano. i consider a career spent spinning in front of a popcorn machine, wetting the kernals like a sprinkler.

***

i do not often eat at red lobster. in six years, this is just the second time. but it occurs to me later that i have a few stories that begin with "... one time at red lobster..."

***

... one time at red lobster my landlord and i were seated next to arguably the most unattractively obese couple i had ever seen. i sat in a chair facing them to use their aesthetic as a cautionary tale, lest i begin to go apeshit all over the bottomless bowl of cheese biscuits.

somewhere between the lobster pizza appetizer and all-you-can-eat whatever, the man proposed to the woman. he awkwardly rolled from his chair to embrace her in a hug as dangerous as planets colliding.

they held hands for the rest of the meal. her shiny ring strangling her thick finger like a belt cinched around a balloon.

i have forever used that encounter as the bottom feeder on the romantic spectrum.

***

... one time at red lobster oneniner and i ordered the drink special. we were served yard-long plastic glasses filled with a peach ice creamy drink. we each took a sip and instantly recognized that there was no alcohol in the drink special. to me, a drink special should at least contain rum.

we berated our waitress for billing something nonalcoholic as a "drink special." sent the mess back to the kitchen and settled in with a yard's worth of michelob golden lite, instead.

***

... one time, when i was about 22, i went on a date with a guy who was a manager at a red lobster. his name was ross and we had met while smoking outside of a building in minneapolis. he thought i was funny; i thought he had great taste. that night i went with he and his friends to a small mexican restaurant in minneapolis -- i've forgotten where, unfortunately. it was near or in uptown. you could draw on the placemats. it was open late. i've always wanted to return without ross.

i laughed myself silly. he had a voice like an AM radio talk show host. he told me he had once screwed a celebrity. but he wouldn't say who. he was older than me with a receding hairline and a daughter he never saw. he lived with his father.

he called me often and eventually i agreed to go on a date with him. we met in the parking lot of his red lobster. we hugged and he handed me a small plastic container of shrimp scampi, with which he intended to woo me. it was a nice start.

went to an art museum and out for chinese food. i dropped him off, back at the restaurant and he gave me an awkward hug.

"so, do you think you want to be friends or more than friends?" he asked.
"um," i hemmed. "do i have to decide right now?"
"actually," he said. "yes."
it was about 6 p.m.
"i don't really know you," i said.
"well, here's the thing: if you want to be more than friends we should do something again. if you just want to be friends, let's not. i have enough friends."

that was the end of my relationship with a manager from red lobster.
i ate the scampi when i got home.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

blah blah blah-ler ...


"isn't it kind of exciting, though?" chuck asks.
"no," i respond.
"there is nothing that you want to change about your old site that you can do now?" he prods.
"no." i respond.
"nothing ...?" he coaxes.
"no," i reply. take a drag of my cigarette.

***

we are on the phone, trying to decide if we will be in the same room for the evening. we are back-counting on our fingers and trying to determine some sort of mathematical equation. where the "togetherness" threshhold starts and ends. how many days in the same room is too many days in the same room? two months ago we hung out twice a week. we did about five or six consecutive days last week, the week before that, the week before that ... until he looked at me on monday -- what would ultimately be the final day of our marathon -- and said "i'm going to the liquor store."

(he then got hopped up on bacardi and challenged to me at a one-on-one game of an edition of family feud released in 1988 ... and subsequently schooled my ass).

***

"so," he says. "what are we doing tonight?"
"well. i am thinking of starting my new blog," i say. hints of the kind of remorse you feel when you look at your high school year book and realize your science teacher, the one who turned out to diddle high school girls, was actually pretty hot. and, well, you were 18. whatever. its all about missed opportunities. the time you should have closed his door when you had an after-school meeting.

"think of how fun it will be to write your first post," he says.
"blah. i want to write about red lobster," i tell him. "people will see that. no one will come back. red lobster is boring."
"hmm ... you need a fun first post. no one has a fun first post," he says.

***

"anyway," he says. "i was thinking of drinking and writing. together."
"hmm. ... really?" i test it in my head. i could do that or do the alternative: spray toonses with bleach and roll him all over my kitchen floor. particularly the hard to reach spots.
"yeah. do you want to drink and write?" he asks.
"yes. do you have enough alcohol for me, too?" i ask.
"i have 10 beers and half a bottle of bacardi," he says.
"that doesn't sound promising," i say.
"10 BEERS AND HALF A BOTTLE OF BACARDI?!" he says incredulously.
"its tinged with drunken disappointment," i say, dividing the tally by two drinkers. "right about the time we start to get hopped up on it, it will be gone."
"i think that when it is gone? that marks a good end-point," he says.

***

by the time i get to his house, i am a little excited about my new site. new color schemes, a new tenor. none of the muckity muck that dragged me down. but mostly i was excited because i'd decided upon a name while scalp-deep in suave.

"blah blah blah-ler," i tell chuck as i run up the steps.

***

chuck reads this before i post and says: that's all you got?
why do i suddenly feel like he has turned into my pimp?